The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, October 27, 2011
A response to Stewart’s questions and statements:
- Is government the antithesis of liberty?
I would say that depends upon how one defines the word “government.” If we define government as the modern State, then yes. The State claims for itself a monopoly on the use of force within a given geographical region and claims to be the final arbiter of all disputes within an arbitrary geographical region that it controls. The State funds itself through the expropriation and coercive theft of resources within its region of control.
As State power expands, freedom is diminished. There is a direct 1:1 correlation between the destruction of property rights and the expansion of State power. The State claims to be a protector of property rights, but clearly this oxymoronic since the State uses coercion to fund itself. In fact, the primary purpose of the State is the destruction of property rights.
For example, business licenses demand that citizens obtain permission before they can sell their own property. Drug laws completely prohibit the sale of certain types of private property. Property taxes are a rent that the State imposes through violence on land that it does not rightfully own. Business regulations impose rules on the use of property that the State does not rightfully own. etc.. etc.. etc..
As the State expands its rule, it must take ever more from the productive private sector by force in order to fund the imposition of its arbitrary rules. Clearly the more resources the State takes for itself, the less resources the public has to produce things that people want to voluntarily purchase on their own. The more resources the State takes for itself, the more property rights are undermined and destroyed.
For example, if a State has a set of laws that can be enforced by X number of cops, it will require X + (some additional number of cops) if it wishes to impose more rules. If it requires more cops, by definition it needs to increase the amount of wealth it loots from the general public to pay for those cops. Hence, a direct correlation between the destruction of property rights and the expansion of State power. Of course, this is not just limited to cops, but includes EPA agents, DEA agents, Park Rangers, etc.. etc.. etc.. and all the bureaucrats and lawyers that are associated with those laws and agencies.
If liberty is the ability to do whatever you want as long as you are not harming others or other peoples’ property, we can say with total certainty that the modern State is the antithesis of this, since the modern State is predicated on coercing people who have harmed no one and stealing/controlling their property.
- One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom.
It is a fallacy to claim that, in the absence of State coercion, roads and social safety nets would not exist. The first major roads in the US were privately owned pay-per-use turnpikes. These turnpikes failed because the State refused to uphold the road owners’ property rights and enforce the tolls that were charged. In addition, the State competed against the turnpike operators by creating its own public roads at tax payer expense. It is hard to compete against an agency that has unlimited funding and gives its product away for free.
Today, we can clearly see that privately owned tollways are superior to State run highways in all aspects. Private tollways are uniformly maintained at a higher level, have less traffic congestion, and are more efficient in the routes between population centers that they employ. Private tollways use peak pricing to moderate congestion, in contrast to State run tollways that offer blanket discounts to frequent users.
Consider that if the market has a need for something, such as a road between two points, entrepreneurs will build whatever is needed if they can be reasonably assured that they can make a profit from its construction. The question is not “how would roads get built without the State?” but rather “why wouldn’t private entrepreneurs build roads that were profitable?” – clearly they would. Economist Walter Block explains why private roads are superior to public roads in this lecture.
Further, consider that businesses want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to access their stores, so it stands to reason that most roads in commercial districts would be funded by businesses and would be freely accessible to the public. Also consider that many private residential developers currently construct their own roads today, so it would be a simple matter for them to roll the maintenance of such roads into home owners fees.
I’m not sure how State run “social safety nets” enhance freedom given that they involve increased destruction of property rights. Consider that someone must pay for these safety nets. While private charity subsists entirely on funding sources that can afford to be charitable with their investment resources, State run safety nets are predicated entirely on the use of coercive force to maintain them. State operated “safety nets” deprive society of more important advancements in support of the human condition. When the State takes money from a medical device manufacturer through taxation and then hands that money to an indigent through welfare, it directly prevents the creation of additional medical devices that would otherwise exist had the State not stolen the money.
The only way to fund social safety nets that does not involve the destruction of more necessary goods and services is to allow private industry/individuals to voluntarily fund private charities with the “cream” of their profits that those particular people can afford to give away without damaging their business.
- What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?
- Do we live in a society or don’t we? Are we a collective? Everybody’s success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn’t believe in evolution, it’s awfully Darwinian.
A “successful” society is one that is full of abundant consumer products and services that enrich the daily lives of the citizenry. While it is true that it takes everyone working cooperatively to achieve an abundant (ie. wealthy) society, the use of coercion to redistribute resources always leads to a worse economic condition than if people had been left to trade their own property among themselves voluntarily.
The absence of coercion fosters a huge incentive for people to engage in productive activities. If people can not benefit from coercion, then they must produce something of value to society if they wish to live a comfortable life. Consider that a person must produce something of value to society before they can trade it for something else that they need more.
- In a representative democracy, we are the government. We have work to do, and we have a business to run, and we have children to raise.. We elect you as our representatives to look after our interests within a democratic system.
Democracy is mob rule. It is more appropriate to say that the majority imposes rulers upon the minority in order to expropriate and control the minority’s property. How can a “leader” that was elected by the majority look after the minority who directly opposed their election in the first place?
- Is government inherently evil?
If by government you mean the modern State, then yes. If people want something, they will pay for it voluntarily. Since nothing government does is predicated on the voluntary funding of resources, it stands to reason that most of what the government does is either not desired by the general public or is done in an entirely inefficient manner. If the government provided services that people actually wanted, it wouldn’t have to use coercion to fund whatever projects it was proposing. From this fact, we can deduce that the State wantonly destroys or wastes resources and does so through the use of violent threats, which I find to be a great definition of the word evil.
- Sometimes to protect the greater liberty you have to do things like form an army, or gather a group together to build a wall or levy.
- As soon as you’ve built an army, you’ve now said government isn’t always inherently evil because we need it to help us sometimes, so now.. it’s that old joke: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? How about a dollar? -Who do you think I am?- We already decided who you are, now we’re just negotiating.
The defense of private property is not evil; the use of coercion to fund the defense of private property is oxymoronic and evil.
See above response for an Austrian School perspective on the voluntary funding of private defense forces.
- You say: government which governs least governments best. But that were the Articles of Confederation. We tried that for 8 years, it didn’t work, and went to the Constitution.
- You give money to the IRS because you think they’re gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water.
- Why is it that libertarians trust a corporation, in certain matters, more than they trust representatives that are accountable to voters? The idea that I would give up my liberty to an insurance company, as opposed to my representative, seems insane.
- Why is it that with competition, we have such difficulty with our health care system? ..and there are choices within the educational system.
Competition? What competition is this that you speak of? When was the last time you went to a doctor and looked at a menu of prices for various services that were offered? If consumers don’t care about prices, there is obviously no competition. You can debate the merits of competition vs. coercive funding, but it is ridiculous to claim that we have competitive markets in healthcare today.
I can not buy an à la carte menu of health insurance coverage. I can not buy coverage for just cancer from a provider based in Texas and coverage for just heart disease from a provider based in California. I am forced to fund the healthcare of indigents that were previously cared for by private charity or pro-bono care by doctors. I can not waive my rights to a civil suit in order to by-pass the exorbitant expense of malpractice insurance. I must buy insurance that my employer selects if I wish to keep more of my own money due to the corrupt tax system that is in place. Prices for healthcare are exploding precisely because there is no true free market in healthcare.
- Would you go back to 1890?
- If we didn’t have government, we’d all be in hovercrafts, and nobody would have cancer, and broccoli would be ice-cream?
- Unregulated markets have been tried. The 80’s and the 90’s were the robber baron age. These regulations didn’t come out of an interest in restricting liberty. What they did is came out of an interest in helping those that had been victimized by a system that they couldn’t fight back against.
- Why do you think workers that worked in the mines unionized?
Voluntary unions of employees are a good thing, especially if the workers feel they are being treated unfairly. Of course, the use of coercion to force people into unions or the prevention of “scab” labor from being hired to replace striking workers is not a good thing. In a free market, workers and employers should be allowed to negotiate a fair wage under a voluntary contract that both parties voluntarily agree to abide by. The use of force undermines positive economic outcomes. People should be allowed to work in dangerous conditions if they want to – since they will not do so unless the pay is high enough to make the risk worth the reward. Why should the State prevent someone from making a good living doing a dangerous job if the person agrees to the risks?
- Without the government there are no labor unions, because they would be smashed by Pinkerton agencies or people hired, or even sometimes the government.
- Would the free market have desegregated restaurants in the South, or would the free market have done away with miscegenation, if it had been allowed to? Would Marten Luther King have been less effective than the free market? Those laws sprung up out of a majority sense of, in that time, that blacks should not.. The free market there would not have supported integrated lunch counters.
- Government is necessary but must be held accountable for its decisions.
The protection of property rights and the arbitration of disputes is necessary; the coercive funding of institutions to carry out those goals is not.
When people argue in favor of the State, what they are really arguing in favor of is the use of coercion to accomplish some specific goal. The use of coercion to accomplish tasks is barbaric, immoral, and unnecessary. The State abolished private slavery because it demands a monopoly on slavery. I think it is safe to say we have proven slavery to be ineffective and immoral in comparison to voluntary trade. If slavery is wrong for individual plantation owners, it is wrong for the mob as well.
Philosopher Stefan Molyneux provides his response to these questions here: